Last season started off great for the Vancouver Canucks. In fact, it ended well too, with 111 points and a 2nd consecutive President’s Trophy win. Things were great in Vancouver, that is, until the playoffs started. It didn’t take long for the L.A. Kings to prove they were the team to beat as they ousted the Canucks in a quick five game series.
Something big happened during that series, however. After two straight losses to open the playoffs, Canucks coach Alain Vigneault dropped Roberto Luongo from the starting line-up in favor of Cory Schneider. While the Canucks still came up short, Schneider played remarkable in net. He played so well, in fact, that he now sits at the number one goaltender position on the Canucks depth chart. Additionally, his great play has sparked numerous rumors that Roberto Luongo will be traded – perhaps even to his old team in Florida.
The great news for the Canucks is that whenever the season does begin, its a fresh slate. Vancouver can start from scratch once again and try to work their way back to the Stanley Cup Finals. It will be a similar squad this season, but a couple minor changes give them a fresh perspective.
Vancouver will once again be lead by the Sedin twins; Henrik and Daniel. Last season, they finished numbers one and two on the team in scoring, respectively, but did see a dip in point totals from the previous season. They’re going to be joined up front by linemate Alexandre Burrows and Ryan Kesler. These are the four guys you’re going to count on for big contributions on the Canucks squad, and they’ll all be expected to rebound to build on the success of the past two seasons.
Gaining some additional responsibility on the squad will be guys like Jannik Hansen and Chris Higgins. Hansen, a Denmark native, finished the campaign last season with 16 goals and 23 assists – 39 points – and carried a plus 18 rating as well. His growth over the past few seasons has been pleasant for the Canucks, but more will be expected of him in 2012-13, especially if he’s playing alongside Kesler. Higgins, meanwhile, is a three time 20 goal scorer, and after posting 18 last season, everyone will be hoping he can eclipse the 20 goal mark once again.
Defensively, the Canucks are now equipped with Jason Garrison who is a free agent pick up from this past summer. Entering only his third full season of play, Garrison will hold a top four role on the Canucks blue line, and should see some time on the power-play as well.
Joining Garrison on the blue line will be three Canucks staples, Alexander Edler, Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieksa. All three played extremely well last season, and will be expected to carry the same duties into 2012-13.
The biggest question, of course, will be between the pipes. Cory Schneider played outstanding last season, compiling a 20-8-1 record. His .937 save percentage and 1.97 goals against average easily bested Luongo’s numbers, and he also picked up 3 shutouts in 28 starts. Schneider has been awaiting his opportunity to take over starting duties since 2010-11, and all signs point towards that happening this season. If the Canucks don’t trade Luongo, then it gives them arguably the best one-two goaltending punch in the league – until the playoffs at least.
The regular season should coast by again for the Canucks squad, as they will continue to win games and once again work their way into the top four seeds in the west. Once the playoffs begin, you can throw everything we know about the Canucks out the window. They certainly have the talent to compete and win a Stanley Cup, but the playoffs are known to bring strange things. Expect a lot out of these guys once again, but don’t be surprised if they can’t cut it come playoff time.